30 June 2008

Maybe He Really Is Everywhere

Chinatown in San Francisco, California is a fascinating place. You could probably fill a blog or book with the sights and sounds of this relatively small neighborhood and not run out of material. The food, the people and the architecture could all make for interesting viewing, but today I am focusing on things you find in those sort of odd stores you only find in tourist areas. The large shops, usually multiple levels that are really five and dime shops of things that you neither need or really see anywhere else, but clearly there is a market for as these shops are always busy.

The one I entered ( hey, it was raining !) was filled with bobble head dolls, chop sticks , fuzzy dice , green tea, Buddhas small and large, woks, 'risque' novelty items and all things Jesus. Seriously, ALL things.

Why not use Jesus to erase your mistakes? I am not actually certain if he is an eraser as well as a pencil topper, maybe that is sacrilegious to use Jesus's head in that manner?
This little pink Jesus ( designed for a female audience presumably) seems to be a modified magic 8 ball. Just think of the decisions this guy could make for you. Should I shave my legs before this date? Do I go out with the crew on this layover or 'slam click'? Which trip should I bid for next month? He could really make my life easier. I notice that the Buddha next to him is on sale, maybe his advice is too mystical?
This product is frankly a little creepy. I did not care for Lincoln's eyes following me at the Lincoln Memorial, I will certainly not pay to have the same effect at home. it seems like his eyes might be day-glo.
How thoughtful of the shop to sell totes that enhance my holiness. I can put all my things Jesus in the bag and go!

27 June 2008

To Couch Or Not To Couch

I was flipping through the latest issue of Wanderlust magazine , the 'special issue' with articles on how to stretch your travel budget. In the current economy most of us could use a little budget stretching, so I eagerly flipped through the magazine and came across an article on couch surfing.

Most die -hard travelers, and certainly any airline employee are familiar with the concept of crashing in a friends spare room/couch. I will freely admit that I am not alone in planning holidays based on where I know people, as Hollene in Sweden and Monique in Switzerland can attest ( and hopefully Bob in Ticino....soon!). The twist of that is couch surfing at complete strangers homes. Hmmmmm.

I looked online at the two sites recommended by the article , couch surfing and hospitality club and checked out what they had to offer. Couch surfing let you browse users profiles, who had 'vetted' them by staying at their place or hosting them, and the profiles gave you a pretty good indication of their personality. Hospitality Club had a bit drier profiles, but you would in every case email the host/guest before so you could get a feel for each other. Photos were with each profile as well. Both groups had members in places as diverse as Iran, South Africa and Minnesota, USA.

Could I stay with a complete stranger? Hard to say, I don't think for an entire holiday, but in places where getting a feel for the country in impossible without a local, like Iran, for example, it might be worth a try. Most of the hosts seemed genuinely proud of where they lived and at the very least , many indicated they would be happy to meet for a coffee /beer and share local tips with you. I think for the moment that is where my comfort level is. If yours is further out than mine, give one of them a try and report back!

26 June 2008

Its All About The Accessories

Skydoll, a fab blogger ( whose name is also Heather, how can I not love her blog?) recently wrote a great post about the collectibles that go along with the profession and the insatiable need to own them. Take a moment, go read her post and come back, I will put on a pot of coffee.Another Flight Attendant Writing About Flying (and other stuff): FLYING CRAP

What she writes rings true with someone that owns the 70s United Airlines Barbie friendship, countless vintage 'stewardess 'ads, junior stewardess wings and other assorted crap, nearly all bought on ebay.

I recently picked up a set of magnets from Last Kiss Comics and they are on the fridge right next to the Dean Morris ones.

Just please don't imagine I live in a house of aviation crap! Most of the stuff is in a box in my dads basement, what with apartments in London being the size of rabbit hutches!!

25 June 2008

My Sentiments Exactly

This would be a party where I charge for drinks, my guests are sometimes crabby and impolite, I am criticized for not considering their dietary restrictions , sometimes I hate my 'co-hosts' and three people that want all the credit for the party stay behind a locked door .....yet everyone thanks them for the great party when they leave!!

24 June 2008

Celebrities, Strange Reading Material and Bad Hearts

I just returned home from Denver, my new home away from home. What a very strange trip it was. On the way to Denver we had Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame in first class. While he is missing the sweatband around his head and the 80s attire I picture him in ( circa Money for Nothing) he was so damned nice I almost wanted to be a groupie. Yes, he was a bit jowly and nearly hairless, but he was so damned nice even before I knew who he was I was digging him. An old man......Boy am I getting old. Especially when some of the crew had no idea who the Dire Straits were. I am sure my singing their songs only hurt their chances of recognition.

When at the layover hotel, my bedside lamps would not work. After changing the bulbs and realizing that was not the problem, I decided to move the night table to make certain they were plugged in. BIG mistake. I looked down at the floor area and there was a friggin mountain of porn there. Literally 2 inches tall of "Club" magazine, apparently stuffed with pages from other magazines. Gross. Years ago when we stayed in an all crew hotel in San Francisco,our pilots usually got the corner rooms. There was ALWAYS porn in the dressers, they would apparently leave it for the next lonely,sad pilot. There are 2 airlines that layover in our Denver hotel, Which airline pilots are the guilty porn hoarders?? I had visions of a pilot checking in after me and getting angry that room 1063 was not vacant.

On the flight home a man told the crew 10 minutes before landing he thought he was having a heart attack. Indeed he was. Luckily all airports have emergency staff at the ready, we were met by paramedics who likely saved the mans life. I am sending good thoughts his way.

Working for an airline, low pay and sometimes low morale but never boring!

17 June 2008

I've Got A Crush On.....Denver

I never saw this coming. It hit me out of the blue. I am really loving flying to Denver. No I do not have a fever! The Denver from my domestic flying days was filled with 12 hour layovers at hotels you could see Stapleton airport from. Room service and a shuttle bus to the airport were the highlights of the trip. The plane was filled with people in flannel shirts and cowboy boots with too much facial hair and they only spoke in grunts. "Coors" , "trash" and "coffee" were the only words I heard from them.

When the heck did things change? Laying over downtown is affording me a chance to explore a new city. Yummy food at Cuba Cuba, browsing the fabulous independent bookstore the Tattered Cover and going on the rides at Elitch Gardens is filling my layovers. The locals also seem to have small town friendliness, which is a bit shocking as I am so used to the big city big hurry ways of London and San Francisco.

In spite of all the good, Denver seems to have its share of quirks as well. The photo below, advertises a certain type of business. Any guesses???

14 June 2008

Partenkirchen, The Little Sister

Everyone knows families that have two sisters in them. Invariably one is prettier and more popular, you have to be reminded of the other ones name. Before I travelled there, that was the case with Partenkirchen. Hell, I speak German and always mumbled the city as Garmisch-somethingsomething. But no more. It is Garmisch-Partenkirchen .

Getting there was supposed to be so easy. A quick flight from Zurich, using a standby ticket on Swiss International. Heck, I even got a seat when I checked in, which if you travel standby means the Gods are smiling upon you. Hah!! Boarding card in hand I waited for my gate to be announced, noticing that MANY flights were cancelling that day. Then the words of terror appeared on the departure monitor 'annuliert'. Cancelled . Crap!!! The weather meant that nothing was getting to Munich that day by air, flights were being sent to Frankfurt .After a quick retrieval of my luggage ( thank the Swiss for their efficiency in returning my luggage, my carrier would have laughed or snarled if I requested this as a standby) I headed down to the bahnhof in the airports basement.

Train ticket in hand, and one hundred Euros lighter, I waited for my train to Munich. The train which broke down just over the border of Germany. 2 hours at one station while they repaired some engine part ( my German does not know mechanical words). Thank God for the paperback and iPod! At 9 pm, 12 hours after I arrived at the airport in Zurich and 2 train rides later, I was in Partenkirchen. Home for a week of snowboarding and airline employee partying and mingling.

Until 1936, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were merely towns that were side by side. Friendly neighbors perhaps but minding their own business. The 1936 Olympics required that towns that hosted events have a certain number of hotel rooms, Garmisch did not have enough.What to do? With the waive of his hand , Hitler put the towns together as the mouthful we know today, Garmisch- Partenkirchen. (Okay I took a little artistic license with the hand waiving, but he did put them together, Hitler seems like a hand waiver to me, in addition to a desk pounder).

Partenkirchen is definitely not the party nexus of the ski resort area, and that is fine with me. It is the quieter part, where you can walk down the middle of most streets,there are stores devoted to the selling of dirndl skirts ( closed for the winter in little Partenkirchen, but big sister keeps hers open), Marzipan shops and many a foot doctor. Germans are obsessed with foot health...Dr. Scholls, Birkenstocks,etc.

The pension we stayed in was the lovely Gasthof Fraundorfer, run by the inimitable Barbara. She is a lady that wears her dirndl while conversing in about half a dozen languages , all making her guests at home. The food here is I swear to God so good that I wanted to eat every meal there. Never have I felt this way about hotel food before. I am not the only one as the restaurant is JAMMED at dinner, even guests need to make reservations. The accordion and oompahpah dancing and singing really set the mood.The Gasthof is on the photo below, I heard a tour group stopping in front one morning and the guide explained that the hotel/restaurant was a place where newlyweds stopped off after their marriage and the art on the front of the building was in the plaster, put there while it was wet, so it does not chip or fade. So many of the buildings in the area had artwork, mostly of a religious nature, you can still see the staunch Catholicism here.

Below is a view from the hotel balcony. You cannot beat waking up to see the snowy Alps at your feet....and a telephoto lens.
The snow in these photos reveal that, yes, this holiday was in March.....
The little flag waiver below was above our room. The pilot staying above us hung one of our airlines baseball caps on him for much of the week.

Political correctness has not yet made its way to Southern Germany. The hairdressers shop with the limp wristed mascot, surprisingly employed no limp wristed men.....

The little Arabesque Sambo below advertised......ice cream.....Not sure how he effectively does that, but he does.
In spite of the cringe worthy advertising, the town is a real jewel. Walkable, delicious food wherever you go ( fast food lovers head to Garmisch for McDs and Pizza Hut) , friendly people including old timers that still wear the traditional dress and lots of snow!!
Coming up- the Zugspitze . Before next month I swear......

05 June 2008

I'm Back

Sorry to be so very neglectful of you, my little blog. After spending time at my father's ( dial up, need i say more?) coupled with a punishing 12 days straight of flying and the current 'aviation woes' my heart has not been with you.

But now I am back and will update you on travels of months past. We will go back in time to march, when fuel was cheaper, there was no typhoon in Burma and earthquake in China. We will laugh about my trip to Garmisch. Then we can reminisce about the family obligation tour and the pow wow I attended ( no I am not Indian). We can also ooh and aah at the flowers in bloom in the English gardens, little blog.

The times we will have, starting tomorrow. I swear.....The first post after a time away is always the hardest...